University of Minnesota, Morris Jazz Festival


Friday & Saturday April 7 & 8, 2017

We are excited to announce that for the 2017 UMM Jazz Festival we will be presenting a tribute to legendary Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.

Features for 2017:

  • Outstanding Soloist Awards - Multiple "outstanding soloists" will be selected to perform during the evening concert.
  • Clinics for Each Instrument Section - Afternoon breakout-session style masterclasses will offer something for each instrument/section (saxophones, trumpets, trombones, and rhythm section)
  • Friday Evening Jam Session - Guest Artists and UMM students will host an after-hours jam session on Friday evening. Anyone is welcome to play!

Guest Artists/Clinicians

Russ Johnson (trumpet)


Trumpeter Russ Johnson is a recent Midwest transplant after spending 23 years as an important member of New York City’s jazz community. He has 7 recordings as a leader or co-leader and performed on more than 75 recordings as a sideman. Russ has worked alongside many of the legendary figures in jazz including Lee Konitz, Steve Swallow, Bill Frisell, and Joe Lovano. In addition, he has recorded and/or performed with a long list of the most prominent musicians currently on the international jazz scene, including Myra Melford, Ken Vandermark, and Tony Malaby. Russ has performed in more than 40 countries across the globe. His most recent recordings, "Meeting Point" and "Still Out To Lunch" received 4 1/2 & 4 stars respectively from Down Beat Magazine and appeared on many "Best Recordings of 2014" lists.  Russ currently serves as Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Wisconsin Parkside.

Scott Agster (trombone)

Scott Agster

Dr. Scott Agster has performed all over the world with such distinguished groups as The Doc Severinsen Orchestra, The UNT One O’Clock Lab Band, The Matt Sawyer Orchestra, The Explosion Big Band, The Glenn Miler Orchestra, Salsa del Soul, Snowblind Jazz Quintet, Jack Brass Band, The Belfast Cowboys, and Davina and the Vagabonds. Scott has had the opportunity to work and perform with many acclaimed artists including Doc Severinsen, Jimmy Heath, Benny Golson, Dave Douglas, Phil Woods, Nicholas Payton, Stefan Karlsson, Slide Hampton, and Paul McKee. He’s recorded with numerous groups providing his own arrangements and compositions.  Scott was also a founding member and arranger for the Vector Trombone Quartet, which was a finalist in the International Trombone Association Quartet Competition in Helsinki, Finland in 2003. Scott is currently active as a clinician on low brass techniques and improvisation. Scott’s research to determine modern trends in jazz curricula around the United States has been highlighted during the 2007 IAJE conference in New York.

Bryan Nichols (piano)

Bryan Nichols is a pianist, composer, and educator based in Minneapolis. Often found playing jazz and improvised music, but at home in a variety of musical worlds, he leads and composes for his own trio, quintet, and nonet in addition to performing, recording, and touring with forward-thinking artists like Nicole Mitchell, Ron Miles, and Olga Bell, and groups like the Gang Font, Dead Man Winter, and Halloween, Alaska. He has taught jazz piano at MacPhail Center for Music, University of Minnesota – Morris, and University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, while presenting clinics and masterclasses at a variety of colleges and high schools around the midwest.

Bryan Nichols

Bryan was awarded a 2010-11 McKnight Fellowship for Performing Musicians, a prestigious and competitive award given to Minnesota musicians. His work also earned him a 2004 residency from Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead program at the Kennedy Center, given to outstanding, emerging jazz performer/composers, and a 2009 subito grant from the American Composers Forum. In May 2011 Bryan released his debut recording as a leader, Bright Places, containing nine original compositions for his quintet. The Star Tribune called the album “fresh and first-rate” and it landed on multiple best-of-year lists. In September 2011, he had the honor of performing as a soloist with the Minnesota Orchestra for the world premiere of a Stephen Paulus' concerto for jazz quintet and orchestra.

Bryan has performed at most music venues in the Twin Cities and Chicago (where he lived from 2001-2005,) in addition to international festivals including Sons d’Hiver (Paris, France) and Kerava Jazz Festival (Kerava, Finland) and local and regional festivals including the Chicago Jazz Festival and the Minnesota Sur Seine Festival. He's been a regular performer on series like SPCO's Liquid Music, and Orchestra Hall's Atrium Jazz Series. Bryan appears on recent recordings by Zacc Harris, MANCRUSH, Molly Dean, Dead Man Winter, Gang Font, Kelly Rossum, and many more. His new album, a solo piano endeavor entitled Looking North, will be out in May 2016 on Shifting Paradigm Records.

Chris Bates (bass)

Chris Bates is a bassist of formidable talent. Having worked professionally for 25 years across all spectrums of the musical landscape he continues to be a driving force in the Minnesota music scene. Raised in a musical household Chris learned early on that variety and diversity were the key to being a working musician and he set his sights on the stars by the time he was a teenager. Bolstered by a classical foundation from MN Orchestra bassist James Clute, Chris gained traction as an improvisor at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire where he played in the award winning Jazz Ensemble I  and was able to work with Red Rodney, Donald Harrison, Matt Harris, Ed Soph, Jiggs Whigham and Ira Sullivan in brief but intense concert experiences.

Chris Bates

In 2012 Chris released his debut album ‘New Hope’ with his quintet Red 5. An all original affair ‘New Hope’ is full of crack shot playing and smart writing that showcases a clean and minimal sound. It was the only jazz album to make the Star Tribune’s Critic’s Tally of top albums in 2012. 2014 saw the release of a new album by ‘The Good Vibes Trio’ and showcases Chris’ love of more standard jazz repertoire with gems from Charles Mingus, Freddie Hubbard and John Coltrane mixed with some original tunes from each band member.

Compositionally Chris recently completed and premiered a full big band version of his quirky ‘Friar Monk’ and also wrote a chamber piece ‘Relay Transmission’ for the new music ensemble Zeitgeist that was debuted in the summer of 2014. Highlights from 2015 include a collaborative soundtrack to ‘Morning Follows Night’ a live radio drama in the noir style composed by Chris Bates, Steven Hobert and Soloman Parham for KBEM FM in April and Atlantis Quartet winning one of four McKnight Performer’s Fellowships for 2015-16. 

JT Bates (drums)

JT was recently featured as the "the hardest working drummer in the Twin Cities" by The Star Tribune: (

JT Bates

In addition to his upcoming tours and recording projects, JT will be continuing his Jazz Implosion series which occurs every Monday evening at the Icehouse in Minneapolis. These performances include Todd Clouser and the great John Medeski, as well as Tim Berne's Snakeoil, Ches Smiths trio featuring Craig Taborn and Mat Maneri.In 2016 JT will be recording with Frankie Lee for Loose Music/Thirty Tigers, a South American tour with the great improvisers Tony Malaby and William Parker, and two shows with Real Bulls (an all-drums band with Bad Plus drummer David King). He will also be touring with Phil Cook and the Guitarheels. Their tour will included some high-profile performances such as the Newport Folk Festival with guests The Blind Boys of Alabama, and the Eau Claire Jazz festival with guests Bruce Hornsby and Justin Vernon. 


The University of Minnesota Morris Jazz Fest boasts a long-standing tradition of excellence in both the daytime educational activates and the high-quality nightly performances. Dating back to 1978, the UMM Jazz Fest is one of the longest continuously occurring annual high school jazz festivals. The Jazz Fest consists of two parts. Each day from 9 a.m.—4 p.m. high school jazz ensembles perform and participate in rehearsal style clinics with the Jazz Fest guest artists. The high school performances are non-competitive, and each ensemble receives a certificate of participation, a video of their performance and comment sheets. The second part of the Jazz Fest takes place in the evening where the UMM Jazz Ensembles perform with the guest artists as soloists, in an evening concert.

This year at the UMM Jazz Fest we are excited to present a tribute to the legendary Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. As always, the emphasis of this year’s Jazz Fest will be on providing an exceptional learning opportunities and performing experiences for high school and college music students. The guest artists will be working with the bands, presenting educational clinics, and performing with UMM's Jazz Ensembles at evening concerts.

For further information please contact Jonathan Campbell at